The Brighter Day was a moderately popular soap opera that ran on radio from 1948 to 1956 and on television from 1954 to 1962.
The show featured the Dennis family, which was headed by widowed father Rev. Richard Dennis. His five children were adult daughters Elizabeth (Liz) and Althea, adult son Grayling, and teenage daughters Patricia (Patsy) and Barbara (Babby).
At least four Brighter Day characters influenced U.S. baby names:
In a 1949 article, Grayling Dennis was described as “restless, charming, spoiled. He writes poetry, plays the violin, has a long string of girl friends who adore his flashing eyes and his wonderful tennis, and drinks too much. But none of these activities has helped Gray, at twenty-three, to “find himself.””
The show was radio-only at that time — listeners would hear Grayling’s name, but never see it — so it’s not surprising that a slew of spelling variants ended up in the baby name data. In fact, the first of the group to debut was Graylin in 1949. Grayling, Grayland, and Graylon appeared in 1950, and Graylan, Graylyn, Graylen, and Greyling followed.
|1950||11||17 [debut]||5 [debut]||5 [debut]|
The name Grayling reached the top 1000 twice in the late ’50s, but all variants saw decreased usage after the TV show was canceled in the early ’60s.
Dramatic daughter Althea dramatically boosted the usage of the name Althea in the late 1940s:
- 1951: 334 baby girls named Althea (rank: 454th)
- 1950: 309 baby girls named Althea (rank: 462nd)
- 1949: 235 baby girls named Althea (rank: 545th)
- 1948: 126 baby girls named Althea (rank: 761st)
- 1947: 118 baby girls named Althea (rank: 803rd)
No doubt she was also behind the debut of the spelling Altheia in 1951.
In early 1951, Althea discovered she was pregnant. Althea was eager to become an movie actress, not a mother, and “regard[ed] the baby as an annoying interruption to her ambitions.” Regardless, she soon gave birth to a baby girl named Spring, and the baby name Spring debuted in the U.S. data the very same year:
- 1959: 34 baby girls named Spring
- 1958: 44 baby girls named Spring
- 1957: 77 baby girls named Spring
- 1956: 104 baby girls named Spring
- 1955: 41 baby girls named Spring
- 1954: 37 baby girls named Spring
- 1953: 27 baby girls named Spring
- 1952: 30 baby girls named Spring
- 1951: 7 baby girls named Spring [debut]
- 1950: unlisted
By July of 1952, Althea’s daughter Spring was already 4 years old (a victim of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome). I’m not sure how often Spring appeared in the show overall, but she may have been featured prominently in 1956, judging by the usage of the baby name that year.
In a 1954 article, Babby Dennis was described as “eager and impulsive.” She was the baby of the family, and her nickname was consistently spelled with a “y” to reflect this fact, but TV audiences clearly preferred the spelling Babbie, which debuted in 1956 — years before Babby and Babbi finally showed up.
|1959||19||5 [debut]||6 [debut]|
By 1959, Babby was a young adult and involved in a romance with a gangster named Peter Nino. (Despite being a gangster, Nino was popular with TV audiences: “Nino was to be killed off in six months, but fan mail gave him a reprieve.”)
- “Does Motherhood Change a Woman’s Life?” Radio Television Mirror Apr. 1951: 34-35.
- Joseph Sirola: A Late-Life Broadway Producer Hits It Big
- “The Brighter Day.” TV Radio Mirror Aug. 1954: 38-39.
- “The Brighter Day.” Radio and Television Mirror May 1949: 34-37.
- “The Brighter Day, Dramatic Series, Begins New Season.” Lake Charles American-Press 7 Oct. 1960: 34.
- The Brighter Day – Wikipedia
P.S. Three of the sources above refer to a single magazine that went through a bunch of name changes over the course of its existence (1930s to 1970s). The publisher was Macfadden, founded by Bernarr Macfadden, who knew a bit about name changes himself…